U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters from 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 34th Combat Aviation Brigade, conduct overflights of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 31, 2019. The helicopters launched flares as a show of presence while providing additional security and deterrence against protestors. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Khalil Jenkins, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)
By Joni B. Hanigan, Special to the Message
*Name changed for security purposes.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (LBM) –*Pastor Amed knew when the sharp cracking sounds of bullets striking cement and metal turned into even louder explosions, tensions simmering in Baghdad for over a month had reached the boiling point.
Black smoke rising from the Green Zone and shouting and cheering in the streets meant either the Iran-backed militias were pushing against the continued American presence in Iraq — or Iraqi Security Forces were again attacking protestors critical of Iran’s influence in Iraq’s government.
Later, he learned the explosions were part of Iran’s response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, a major general who commanded the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps division that has targeted U.S. troops and U.S. allies.
Communicating through a social media link, Amed said the situation is very tense and he and his family must remain inside their home at all times. “We don’t know what will happen,” he said.
“We thank our God for everything,” he said. “We believe our God will protect us.”
In Iraq, where an estimated 200,000 Christians remain as compared to the 1.3 million who resided there in 2003, there is a lot of fear, according the longtime, Iraqi-born pastor of an Arabic-speaking congregation in the United States.
“Christians pay the price every time a war starts in the Middle East,” Chuck said. “We are always considered outsiders and the West does not care for us these days.”
Christian refugees, Chuck said, have been waiting in Turkey and other places for 10 or more years. “There are no takers for some,” he said.
Others have chosen to stay out of fear of being refugees.
A U.S. Marine with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, carries a sand bag to strengthen a security post during the reinforcement of the Baghdad Embassy Compound in Iraq, Jan. 4, 2020. The SPMAGTF-CR-CC is a quick reaction force, prepared to deploy a variety of capabilities across the region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kyle C. Talbot)
“They do not want to leave because they do not want to go to the unknown; instead, they suffer with the known,” Chuck said.
There are political hurdles and complications, Chuck said, with new immigration caps, and rules which deny immigration to those who have service in the military — despite strict conscription rules.
Christians who have fled Iraq have lost their culture and identity, he said, and need strong voices to help them get to the U.S. or make it somewhere.
He asked Christians to pressure the government to do more to relocate Iraqi Christians here, and, to seek greater protections for Iraqi Christians abroad, punishing nations that persecute them.
For information about ministering to Iraqi Christians and refugees, go to World Refugee Care.